“On cankerstilts of light:” Arno Schmidt @ 100

Arno Schmidt in 1970.  OICTURE: arno schmidt stiftung, bargfeld

Arno Schmidt in 1970. Photo: arno schmidt stiftung, bargfeld

That strange, ornery, wonderful avant-gardista prosist of post-WWII German Literature would have turned 100 today. You can find details of his bio & oeuvre, here , here & here. These days he is — to some extent in his native Germany, and certainly here in the US — a neglectorino, despite the achievements. As the site “The Complete Review” puts it re his presence here: “English-speaking readers are also fortunate: one of the foremost translators from German, John E. Woods, has bravely devoted much time and effort to translating many of Schmidt’s works. Two of the foremost literary publishers in the United States have also devoted considerable resources to making Schmidt’s works available: Dalkey Archive Press has published four volumes of Schmidt’s early fiction, while Green Integer is bringing out many of the radio dialogs and in 2001 published The School for Atheists. (Unfortunately (and unbelievably) these publications — especially the most recent one — have gone almost unnoticed in the American and English media.)”

I have been delighting in rereading those Radio Dialogs, especially the one where he deals with a shared obsession, Karl May, though while I can still find pleasure in rereading some passages in May’s juvenile travel narratives, Schmidt only wants to save from the 80+ volumes of May oeuvre the three late religio-mystical books which I have always considered unreadable… Oh well, we do share the pleasure of that letter Schmidt cites in which May dissects & disses Nietzsche’s prose style.

Below, I’m reprinting the opening pages of his u- or maybe better dis-topic sf-novel The Egg-Head Republic, possibly his finest achievement (the huge Zettel’s Traum which comes to 1300 pages in large format remaining untranslated) translated by Michael Horovitz and published by Marion Boyars in London in 1979 — though copies are still available via ABE.

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